Saturday, September 28, 2013

Out and About Two

On last night's news I saw a photo of a car wearing ten inches of snow in the same area of the Uintas where we went backpacking five weeks ago.  Gotta' love Utah weather!

The snowy car reminded me that I should post some driving-around pictures from last winter before this next one comes on.  (I wonder if my kids would like to dress as Eskimos this Halloween?)

My youngest children and I were driving home from some late-afternoon errands last February, and we saw the neighbor kids hard at work in the church parking lot.  I couldn't resist pulling in to see their snow fort with its system of tunnels.  I'm so glad these kids weren't wasting their time playing video games after school because this is what childhood is made of!

See the discarded backpack (below)?  I love that these kids never made it home from school.  The snow pile was too tempting!
It's a good thing my own children were already dressed for the weather because I doubt I could have made them miss any of the fun by taking 20 more seconds to find some gloves at home.
Piles of snow are great, and powdery, crystalline flakes on my deck are pretty.

There is something about driving in the pre-dawn hours that I really love.  I like the quiet streets and the anticipation of a new day.  These next two pictures were taken after I dropped my high schooler off for an early Seminary morningside.

My phone's camera had a hard time capturing the brightness of the setting full moon in morning's twilight.  It was hanging there like a silver ball in the clear sky.  Beautiful!

These ducks cutting across a parking lot reminded me of a cute, old couple out for their daily exercise.  (If they were a young couple still in a fixated state of infatuation, the man would not be waddling along ahead of his lady.)

As a former member of the OHS and BYU Marching Band color guards, my eye is pretty quick to catch people in uniform rehearsing.  I was at the city offices last spring, which share a building with the Police Department, when through a window I saw the honor guard rehearsing their presentation.  This type of discipline and precision make me grateful for civilization.  I don't think I would have been very happy as a cavewoman.
While I'm on the topic--of color guards, not Ice-Age people--here's a picture of me and Kent in uniform back in our college days.  Though our home is several miles away, I can sometimes hear the drum line practicing outside the stadium.  The sound of football season always takes me back to those good memories.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Life Coach

Last week #4 paid me the highest compliment I remember receiving, so far, as a mother.  It was more satisfying than the sweet messages scribbled on handmade Mother's Day cards, and better than the floating hearts that my preschoolers used to doodle on their sketches of stick-figured me and them. What could outweigh those love notes?  A school assignment.

#4 was asked to complete an all-about-me poster for her teacher to display during #4's birthday week.  One section of the poster asked #4 to include a picture and short description of her hero.  I looked to find that she had written the following:

"My mom is my hero because she always makes sure that I am safe.  She helps me.  She cooks good dinners for me."

I've never even hoped to be someone's hero!  To find out that my child thinks of me as such made me so very happy!

Rather than drawing a picture of me on the poster, #4 wanted to snap a photo before school so I could have it printed by the time she got home and got back to work on the poster.  With my new heroine status, I figured my appearance should live up to the title.  When I told #4 my idea for the photo, she blushed and reminded me that the picture would be hanging up for her whole class to see.

"I know!" I replied.  "It will be awesome!"

"It will be too embarrassing," she answered with a nervous laugh.

I reminded her that she thought the speech I helped her write last year for her campaign, to be Class Representative in the student government, would turn into a huge embarrassment.  Something about mixing opera, rap, and an English accent made her nervous.   When she couldn't come up with a catchier idea, though, she decided to practice the lines.  After a few days she felt more--not completely, but more--comfortable with the idea of singing in her speech, and she eventually mustered the courage to belt it out in front of her whole class.  They laughed and loved it, and she was voted in!

*Note about politics:  I've learned that a show of being clever and fun can win votes.  The pattern held as true for last year's third graders as it did for the nation.*

*Note from my past:  In the beginning of my elementary-school years, I sort of had a reputation as the class clown.  Not that I was super disruptive (though I do remember my name being on the board a lot with check marks next to it that indicated I talked out of turn too often), but I could usually come up with a comment or physical humor (different than bodily humor) that would make others laugh.  That part of me sort of faded after fourth grade and I became quite shy outwardly, keeping my humor to use only with my close friends and family.  As a  young mother, I one day had the epiphany that my shyness was cutting me off from potential friendships and other opportunities, and I decided to overcome it.  As a mother of school-age children, I have discovered that I am determined to not let them slip into shyness without them understanding that it is a choice they are making.  Fortunately, I seem to have given birth to a bunch of extroverts.  Sometimes it's annoying; but for the most part, Kent and I are pleased at how friendly, outgoing, and cool our kids are.  They are each cooler than we ever were/are.  #4, though, is the child who is most likely to follow in my footsteps.  I don't mind that she is quiet.  I just want her to know that it's okay to be fun and that people actually like a little silliness in a person.*

Once she recalled how well last year's crazy speech went over with her peers, #4 gave in and let me run to get my costume for the picture.

I wish you could see my cape and crazy hair a little better.  #4 had been hesitant about the super hero outfit idea, but once she saw the pink eye mask, she was all in.  (It was an added bonus in her mind that my mask and shirt coordinated.)  When I let her add the yellow power marks, she traded fear of embarrassment for excitement!

I've recently put my life in better order than it's probably been since I became a mom 1 1/2 decades ago.  I've worked out my schedule to contain everything that is important for me and everything I've committed to do for others.  I have personal time to communicate with Heavenly Father, and to exercise my mind and body.  I have time to care for my marriage, my family and home. I have time to write and rest and read and carry on friendships.  It is so empowering for me to know that I HAVE TIME!  All the busy-ness of my life is still here, but it's no longer overwhelming.  I have found that my stress level has gone down as my brain can finally relax and know that everything it's been worrying about will be seen to.  I've implemented strategies with my nutrition, my smartphone, Google Calendar, and IQTELL's productivity app to keep things running as smoothly as possible.  That's not to say that my schedule doesn't get thrown off every day--I'm already an hour behind as I write this--but at least I'm now choosing what to neglect in my schedule rather than wondering and thinking about the future work that is piling up when I turn my attention away from my original plans. 

To sum up the effects of turning my life over to routine and electronic reminders, I can say that I am more happy and feel more free than I have in years!

True, it helps that all my kids are in school and my body and time are mine again for six hours each day.  But I'd guess that a lot of other adults with school-age children or no children at home still live in the stress and worry that I carried around only a few weeks ago.

This new-found sense of fulfillment led me to the idea that I might like being a life coach.  I could help people organize their lives, be a person to answer to as they worked on goals, and give them pep talks as they aim for more willpower and self-control.  Business owners hire consultants to help them manage their companies.  Why not see if people would pay me to help them manage their lives?

For two days I nourished thoughts of how fun it would be to be a life coach.  I would love to help others swap stress and pressure for calm and contentedness.

Then I took a hard look at my calendar.  This screen shot was last week's schedule, after I cut out the activities that would have required me to be in two places at once.  Basically, I have some free time from 10:30 p.m. until 6:00 a.m., but that's only because I didn't create time blocks for my sleep.

That's when reality took over: I'm already a life coach for five awesome people who depend on me less to tell them when to wash their hands and more to guide them into adulthood...which is approaching way too quickly.  I guess I can wait until they are grown to try meddling with anyone else!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Still Photos Don't Quite Do It Justice

Two posts about the same event?  I know, it's unusual.  But so was this flood.  I guess if Provo gets rain like this twice per century, I can double post about that often too.

This video shows the erosion of Grandview Hill, which is only a few minutes from our home.  Ironically, our emergency preparedness plan has always included the idea that we would head to the Grandview Hill neighborhood if ever we should flood.  We just always expected a flood to come from a broken dam up Provo Canyon and down the river to us.  20 minutes of heavy rain never crossed our minds.

Kent and I drove around Provo and Orem a bit after the rain had stopped.  It was interesting to see fallen trees, flooded parking lots, broken branches, smashed roofs, and mud/mulch slides.  My kids' school backs up to Grandview Hill, and they had mudslides on the property, but luckily no damage to structures.  I know it's small stuff compared to what hurricanes and tidal waves do, but it's still amazing to see this kind of water damage in a high mountain desert.  A lot of homes had flooding and others lost vehicles to toppled trees.  I feel fortunate that we enjoyed the storm with only a leaky door.  Also fortunate that basements aren't allowed in our part of the city.

Here are a few other guys who felt fortunate in the storm, mostly because they had wakeboards and a pickup truck on hand.  Nate, this video is for you.  I especially like the jumps off the picnic table at about 1 min. 15 sec.!

The ordinance for that retail area says No Skateboarding; it says nothing about No Wakeboarding!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Rain, Rain

Labor Day Monday we were driving home from the Glauser Olympics (at which we placed with a silver, thank you very much) when we found ourselves in a heavy rain on the freeway.  I didn't realize how heavy it was until we came to our neighborhood streets, which normally drain well, and the water reached the underside of the minivan.  We passed some friends splashing through the flooded roads in the dark.  My children begged me to let them go play, but at 9:30 at night I just wanted them to go to bed and get rested for school the next day.  So they went to their rooms like good little children.  After waiting for us, their parents, to go to bed, those stinkers went outside to play!  (I got an admittance of guilt from one of the younger ones the next morning.)  Sadly/fortunately, by 10 p.m. the rain had tapered off and the streets had drained, so they were met only with disappointment.

The little English children of the 17th century must not have realized how good they had it.  They sang "to charme away the Raine" (according to John Aubrey, who was a writer and one of the world's first archaeologists--kind of an interesting guy).  While they were charming the rain away, their nursery rhyme also works for kids of the desert who welcome a good downpout in daylight hours:

Rain raine goe away,
Come again a Saturday.
Little children want to play.

By the way here's another interesting tidbit from Wikipedia. Did you know Peter, Paul & Mary, the Foo Fighters, and Nine Inch Nails have all included versions of this nursery rhyme in their songs?  Now you've learned something new for the day!

While English children were wishing to postpone the rain, my kids were wishing it really would come again.  The kids weren't the only ones.  I have at least one adult friend who felt left out when she missed playing in the rain Monday evening.  I, too, was hoping for a nice summer deluge.  I have a great memory from when I was 20 years old and played in the rain in Arizona's Kaibab Forest.  In one of nature's tricks, the sun was interrupted for about ten minutes that day as the heavens dumped their water on us.  I joined the other college students I worked with that summer in a few minutes of wet frolicking and amazement that so much liquid could be held up in the air...until it couldn't.  When it finished, we were surrounded by steaming earth and the rich scents of forest soil and pine.  It's one of my favorite memories.  I wanted my own children to have that memory for themselves.

Well, the nursery rhyme worked, and for the second time in six days, Utah County got pummeled by heavier and longer rain than I've ever seen in my 35 years in this state.  Provo's Mayor Curtis said it was a storm that only comes around twice in a century.  (The pictures of damage he posted on his blog are pretty impressive.)  We were just finishing our weekend deep cleaning when Kent and the kids called me to the back deck to witness the greenish-gray, roiling clouds.  They were beautiful and ominous.  And then they broke.  The wind whipped the water in sheets against the deck doors so that we could barely see through the glass.  In coastal areas, such a storm would send residents running for cover and locking their shutters.  My kids took it as an indication that they should be outside!

They ran out and back in with the thrill of being soaked within seconds.  After recording the excitement on Facebook, they were back out again!

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Notice #3's orange T-shirt in the truck's spray?  She loved it!
Neighbor children ran to our home for brief cover, and then ran back outside to splash in the puddles that were quickly forming in the gutters.  I gave up my intentions to mop the floors and took a seat on the covered front porch to watch all the excitement, and to be grateful to have an actual roof over my head.  I said a prayer of thanks that the constant rain on our recent camping trip had been nothing like this monsoon.  Within a few minutes, though, I was cold and damp from the mist that was blown under the porch roof.  The kids brought their useless umbrellas back to me.  I guess with the water driving hard enough to force its way through the umbrella fabric, the kids just gave in and ran through it with no cover.  

My friend, K, who had missed Monday's storm came over to make sure we weren't missing all the fun, and I reassured her that I was enjoying myself while still staying mostly dry.  When she left, I told Kent that part of me really wanted to join the water fight that had formed in the lake where the street used to be, but part of me really wanted to stay dry and make sure the towels were catching the leaks around our sliding door.  He said he would go play if I would; but he was fixing a screen, and the sensible part of me won out.  For a bit.

Once the hard, windy rain left off and only a normal, steady shower was left, I couldn't resist any longer.  I headed out with my camera to capture #3 swimming in the street and #s 1 and 2 splashing with their friend, S.

Thanks, Raine, for coming again on Saturday, because my little children did want to play.

P.S.  Thanks, too, Raine for getting it all over with and leaving a lovely evening for BYU to beat Texas!  40 to 21!!!  Great game Cougars! 

(Thanks for the photo Deseret News.  I didn't see a copyright symbol, so I hope it's okay to post.)

Monday, September 2, 2013

I See a Pattern

Technically, we still have about three more weeks until the autumnal equinox, which will mark the first day of Fall.  However, with the sun setting now at 8:00 p.m., a new crispness in the evening air, and the Halloween and Christmas displays already making their way into Wal-Mart, Labor Day is the day that officially marks the end of summer for me.  Today is the last day to visit the water park (if you like to slide in the rain).  It's the last time this year to sleep in with the windows open, only to be awakened by the buzz of lawn mowers and the scent of freshly cut grass.  It's also the last day that I would consider camping for the year.
I woke, this morning, thankful for a comfy mattress and squishy pillow to snuggle into as I pulled my down comforter back over my shoulder.  I thought about last Labor Day when I was awoken by the rocking of my air mattress as Kent shifted his weight.  The morning light was filtering through the tent fabric, and I pulled my sock hat lower over my eyes in a futile attempt to get more sleep.  I do love waking on camping mornings to peek around and see which of my children are also peeking around, and which ended up huddled in the bottom of their sleeping bags as their unconscious bodies crept toward warmth.  #5 is almost always curled at his sisters' feet in the bags we zip together for them.
Last Labor Day I was grateful for a modern tent with a waterproof fly.  I was also grateful for bloomers and a petticoat to dress into.  Sandy, Kent's mom, had outfitted us well.  When Kent and I were teenagers, his family went to rendezvous every year, and I tagged along with them twice.  After almost two decades' absence, it was time to take the kids back in time to the Mountain Man Rendezvous in Fort Bridger, Wyoming.  Grammy was all in, and Pappy came up for Saturday. While our modern conveniences of car camping kept us out of sleeping in the fort itself, our period clothing at least waived our entrance fee for the weekend's activities.

We watched a blacksmith at work, applauded the Native American dancers, and shopped at the many tents selling jewelry, toys, leather works, clothes, pottery, and food.  We refilled our glass sarsaparilla bottles repeatedly, which you can see #3 chugging as she viewed the competition at the rifle range.  The kids especially had a "blast" with the candy canon where #5's strategy was to simply hold his cap and collect the falling treats.

I've always enjoyed the early morning Church service where nearly one thousand campers gather to take the Sacrament and bear their testimonies.  Back in our little camp, Grammy shared stories of the handcart pioneers and we took turns sharing our own thoughts and testimonies.  We stayed away from the shopping on Sunday and entertained ourselves instead with #5's bull whip, Grammy's lace making, and cooking stew for the Dutch oven pot luck meal with Grammy's friends and neighbors that afternoon.  When it rained, which it did off and on all weekend, we took cover to play games in the tent.

We usually only have energy for one camping trip per year.  In 2011, we went to Moab with our friends, the Petersons.  In July of 2012, we wanted to see another national park, so we invited our friends Matt & Jenny Spadafora and their kids for a weekend in Zion National Park.  One of the great things about camping with friends is discovering new camp foods.  The Spadaforas' fried-egg-and-bacon breakfast sandwiches, where everything is cooked into a hole in the bread, were a hit!  Arriving on Thursday, we were lucky enough to get two of the few remaining first-come campsites in the park, right near the Virgin river.  Besides playing in the water and playing card games at camp, we also visited the nearby ghost town of Grafton with its cemetery marking stories of hardship for the pioneers and Native Americans who first settled the area.

I fell in love with Zion as a college student in 1996 when I hiked all over southern Utah and northern Arizona throughout that summer.  It was satisfying 16 years later to see my children gain that same love for Utah's natural beauty.  Even #4 learned to embrace the nature, which was a big step after her 2011 declaration on our way to Moab, in a grumbly New Jersey accent, "I hate the nate-chuh!"

#3 took more than 200 photos of the park.  Half of those pictures were of this deer that didn't mind eating around our campsite with her two fawns.  Some of the other photos, though, were truly stunning, which isn't hard to do in Zion's grand scenery.

Notice anything ominous?  Yes, we camped in the rain--again.  Really, though, each afternoon's rain shower was sweet refreshment from the hikes in the noon heat.  When the rain became wearisome, we simply hopped on a shuttle and headed back to enjoy the sound of sprinkling from inside our tent.

For 2013, we decided to do real camping and took the family backpacking to Notch Lake in Utah's High Uintahs.  Kent and I scouted out the trail over our anniversary weekend in July and planned our trip for the weekend before the Labor Day rush.  When I mentioned our plans to our cousins, the Eddingtons, they jumped at the opportunity for a backpacking trail that would work for young children.  Their friends, the Wests, also came along, and we all enjoyed a day of camping in the rain.

Let's get a better look at #3's ponchoed packing outfit, because it simply cracks me up!
I admit to being a little intimidated at the prospect of back packing with the Eddingtons.  They are pretty serious campers, known to scale mountains and karate chop wood with their bare hands.

Luckily, my kids proved to be up to the challenge.

They drank fresh water straight from streams coming out of the mountain.  (Lest you think we lost our minds, we also filtered and boiled most of our water.)

They even stepped it up a notch and brought some comfort to the duty of taking care of nature in nature.  #4 dug the latrine and built the stick-and-duct-tape toilet paper holder herself.

Kent spent his Scouting years back packing through the Uintah Mountains, and he's been back many times as an adult with his dad and brothers and friends.  This was the first time our family has been there.  The scenery was absolutely breathtaking.

As I mentioned, this was another camping trip in the rain.  This time we had planned for it, convinced that the rain would enhance the trip.  After all, the reason camping is always the most memorable and unifying vacation is because you can count on things going wrong.  We pitched our tent in the drizzly dark, finishing just ten minutes before a downpour.  While the girls and I laid out bedding, the boys miraculously started a fire in the wet, which the kids kept stoked throughout the next day.  We hiked and played between scattered showers, and took down camp between downpours.  In total we spent four hours shopping, collecting gear, and packing, and five hours back home running laundry, wiping mud out of the tent (yes, we took this HUGE ten-person tent on our BACKS!), and airing out sleeping bags.  Was nine hours of prep and cleanup worth 24 hours of adventure?  Let me refer you once again to the scenery:

The accomplishment that accompanies a back packing trip was also great for our family.  We know we can do hard things, and it is more fun to do them together. 

We thought we had learned this lesson pretty well, but we had one more challenge ahead of us.  After stuffing our packs into the van and watching the sun set beyond the forest, we climbed in to discover an almost-dead car battery.  We probably should have expected this.  Did you notice the title of this post?  You may have thought I was referring to a pattern of rain every time we sleep in a tent.  Or maybe you noticed that we like to camp with friends, which is now our favorite way to go camping.  This is not just because it makes for interesting adult conversation and fewer complaints from our kids.  The other benefit of camping with friends is that they have car batteries that work!  The Spadas even had a battery charger when they came to Zion with us.  On that trip, we killed our battery by inflating air mattresses using our van's charger, but not pausing to restart the engine once in awhile.  At Fort Bridger, we were dumb enough to repeat that mistake, and then had to jump the van a second time on that trip after the cold weather discouraged our already weak battery.  This year, we had not inflated air mattresses at the van, so the dead battery took us by surprise.  I guess it just didn't like the overnight cold.  Unfortunately, we had left our friends back at camp to contemplate whether they wanted to sleep another night in the rain, so no immediate help was available.  We said a prayer, mustered our muscle, pushed the van backward out of it's parking space and forward through the parking lot to the main road.  #1 was happy to put her new driving steering skills to use, while #4 was generally freaked out by that and by the fact that night had fallen and she saw no vehicles.  Luckily, the first driver to see us waving for help had jumper cables, and we were on our way.  Our prayer was answered again when we stopped at a gas station halfway home and the van restarted after refueling.  However, the prayer was over when we reached home safely.  After backing halfway into the garage and unpacking the equipment, the engine again refused to start.  A quick check of our maintenance records proved the battery to be completely dead at 5 1/2 years old.  Our hope is that our new battery will survive next year's camping trip to Yosemite and this part of our memorable pattern will be over!